British Science Week is an annual celebration of all things STEM, running from 5th to 14th March 2021. Here’s my suggestion for an article to support families to enjoy some practical STEM activities at home all while nurturing curiosity and creativity.
British Science Week is an annual 10-day celebration of all things STEM taking place between 5th and 14th March 2021.
STEM is a learning philosophy that integrates Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics holistically to inspire our children and encourage them to become active learners, engaging in projects that help them to become creative problem solvers. STEM learning is a reflection of real life.
STEM takes us away from just absorbing and repeating knowledge instead our children begin to apply what they learn to each subsequent project. For example, once a child has experimented with different materials and understands that some are waterproof and others are absorbent, they can apply this knowledge to the challenge of creating a suitable shelter.
It’s not about being told the properties of these materials, not memorising facts nor showing how much they can get right. It’s about making discoveries and using these to find solutions to real problems. This in turn helps us as parents and educators to nurture their curiosity, creativity, resilience, self-confidence and so much more.
This year’s British Science Week theme of Innovating for the future lends itself perfectly to the STEM philosophy, as we take a challenge and work towards finding a solution. From the wheel and the computer to Velcro and Rollercoasters, it took a tenacity, repeated testing and many failures to find the solution. All of which improves resilience as children are encouraged to persevere through any difficulties, boosts self confidence as their own creative vision comes to life and succeeds as well as helping them be engaged in solving real life problems.
Every great innovator of the past was a natural STEM-ist and your child is inherently good at STEM, it’s how the human brain is wired. So many inventions of the immediate future, like living robots, plastic alternatives, self-driving cars and space tourism felt like unachievable dreams 20 years ago. The reality of these dreams in not so far away now, and your children will be the great innovators of the future. By nurturing an enthusiasm for STEM at a young age we can ignite a passion that’ll last a life time.
Give one of these STEM challenges a try and have your own British Science Week Celebration.
Challenge 1: Can you create a plastic alternative using cornflour?
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- 1.5 tbsp water
- 5 drops of oil
- Food colouring (optional)
- Add the ingredients into your bowl and stir until they form a milky mixture
- Pop the mixture into the microwave for around 30 seconds (more if creating a large batch)
- Watch carefully as the mixture bubbles up and becomes slightly transparent
- Allow the mixture to cool enough to handle and then knead it. It should be similar in texture to playdough.
- Mould your mixture into the shape of your desired object, pop it onto a damp paper towel and leave it to harden (approx. 48 hours). You can paint the item if you wish.
You have made a bio-plastic, created from a renewable material, corn flour! This material is completely bio-degradable and versions of this are being used around the world for food packaging, in the textile industry and in medical supplies. Can you devise an investigation to review the suitability of this material? What else could you create using this material?
Challenge 2: Can you devise a machine that will transport tourists into space?
How do humans lift off into the air? How do astronauts get into space? What could your invention look like? You could try the bottle rockets from the video above, or something of your own like a plane.
Using materials from around your house it’s time for you to become an inventor and create your own prototype.
Draw and label your design before building your prototype. Decide how you will test its effectiveness, maybe how high it flies, think how you will measure this.
Challenge 3: Can you build a raft that floats?
You must first explore a range of materials from around your house that sink and float, in order to determine which are the most buoyant and therefore the best to use for raft building. Search around your house for different materials you might be able to use, for example, Lego, lolly sticks, old corks, plastic bottles and so on.
Decide which materials you wish to use, as well as how you are going to attach them, maybe tape, elastic bands or string. Build your raft and test it floats, as a further challenge add a toy and see if it continues to float. Since rafts are intended for carrying a load, you may need to adjust your design to ensure it can support your chosen passenger!
The Virtual Explorers Club is a monthly e-magazine and online STEM activities library, created by Ruth Tsui, an experienced primary school teacher and STEM educator. Designed to engage and excite primary school children in hands on STEM learning, supporting you to develop key life and learning skills e.g., resilience, collaboration, critical thinking and many more. The library itself is full of hands-on activity ideas, linked in themes to support you as you explore- all the background information, written guides and supporting videos using household supplies or items available in the supermarket. For more information visit www.thevirtualexplorersclub.com